Five years is a long time between albums, but after 20 years as a band, Teenage Fanclub has certainly earned the right to take their time. It’s been an interesting wait, however, because of their last effort (2005’s Man-Made) which saw the group slowly moving towards a softer destination with their classicist power pop. Gone are the days of cracking noise raves like “Everything Flows” or even electrified sing-alongs like “Sparky’s Dream.Man-Made showcased the band’s music funneled through the production aesthetics of Chicago post-rock courtesy of producer John McEntire and it worked, though fans hoping for a return even to Songs From Northern Britain were bound to be somewhat disappointed.

Now comes Shadows, the band’s eighth full length and second for American label Merge. First, the production aesthetics are still largely there. The record, admittedly, does sound, at times, like the Sea and Cake covering Teenage Fanclub songs. But this is not simply the second coming of Man-Made. Shadows is full of songs, especially in its masterful middle section, that take controlled power pop and lace it not only with echoes of the band’s louder past, but even deeper back from within the rock & roll pantheon than their traditional pop influences. A perfect example of the latter is lead single “Baby Lee.” Sounding like a lost Roy Orbison song, it takes a steady pace and cleanly strummed guitars and creates a harmony rich, string-tinged gem. Meanwhile, “Sweet Days Waiting” mines the reverb rich Wall of Sound for its languid, maudlin ache.

The album’s opening three songs, while all solid, hardly tear themselves far from the mold of Man-Made, so it’s a pleasant surprise when “Into the City” enters the picture and kicks off a stretch of five songs that anchor the album so perfectly. The tandem of “Shock and Awe” and “When I Still Have Thee” are especially graceful in giving the album the subdued fuzz and guitar leads of the former and note-perfect balladry of the latter.

Taking the long view, Shadows is just another addition to the formidable legacy of a group that deserves a pretty high place in rock & roll’s league of enduring bands. The consistent quality with which they have created music over the past two decades is simply astounding and looks to be continuing for the foreseeable future. words/ j neas

MP3: Teenage Fanclub :: Baby Lee
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8 Responses to “Teenage Fanclub :: Shadows”

  1. Amen. Teenage Fanclub deserve to be recognized and revered along with pop kings like their forebears Big Star. “Grand Prix” still stands as one of the great power pop discs of the last 20 years. Start buying their stuff today if you’re not yet hip to TF.

  2. saw the Fannies live a couple of weeks ago performing most of the stuff off shadows and it sounds even better live-go see them if you get the chance.Massively underrated band who have been producing great power pop for over 20 years now.

  3. @lockjawdavis – Grand Prix is my personal favorite Fannies album – mostly because my introduction to them was hearing “Sparky’s Dream” on alt-rock radio in the 90s.

    @Brendan – I saw them on tour for Man-Made and totally agree with you – while that album underwhelmed me a bit at first, live the songs lept to life in a way I hadn’t expected and it was marvelous.

  4. Bandwagonesque/Grand Prix/Thirteen/Songs From Northern Britain….you’d be hard pressed to find 4 consecutive albums by any artist that are of such high quality.

    A horribly, horribly underrated band. So few people have the ability to write songs as heartfelt and melodic.

    Seeing them and B&S in Brooklyn later this summer, and I can say I’m more excited for the Fannies than B&S.

  5. Live in Leeds last week they were better than ever. A bit older, still earnest (save for Norman’s infectious grin and interraction with the front row) the new songs meshed perfectly with the old.

    ‘When I Still Have Thee’ had a word-perfect crowd only slightly less manic than a crashing ‘Everything Flows’ and ‘The Concept’. They’ve added a beefed-up keyboard sound to the live show and the gorgeous Hammond swell towards the end of ‘Shock And Awe’ had the place as quiet as a church.

    Great stuff. My favourite band in the world.

  6. Bandwagonesque was one of those albums that saw me through my stint in the military. Much love for Teenage Fanclub…

  7. i don’t know! does falling into Teenage Fanclub require me to be older? to begin with an earlier album than this one? The way you, and all the other commenters describe it, one really has to take the long view with this group, as if this is only the latest installment in their serial novel…I’d love to ‘get’ it, but I’m having trouble!

  8. I get these guys…great songwriters who check their egos in at the door, and seem to have upmost respect for each other. thats how it works, if most bands followed their queue, we would have much better music to listen to. non pretentious music, no head banging, no cut your wrists, just honest pop meant to make you feel great about yourself or to realize your hidden emotions. I only wish I could find what they find to enhance my own songwriting, but thanks mates for the inspiration to get back into the studio!

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